ARDEN - James Estes Willingham, Sr. fulfilled his destiny on December 26, 2012, becoming yet another Alzheimer's victim. He was born August 24, 1929 in Glen Alpine, Burke County, North Carolina. He is preceded in death by his parents, Benjamin Lawton and Mary Butler Willingham, and by his wife of 46 years, the former Elizabeth Bynam Justice.
Jim is survived by his wife, Mary Ann; his sons, James E. Willingham, Jr. and his wife, Linda, of Jasper, Florida and Preston Willingham and his wife, Allison, of Park City, Utah. Additionally he is survived by three step daughters, Carson Gleberman and her husband, Joseph, of New York City; Cloud Conrad of Winder, Georgia and Susan Amiot and her husband, Brooks, of Baltimore, Maryland. The grandchildren include James E. Willingham III and Toft Willingham; Alexandra and Ben Hess; Noah Willingham; Sarah, Meg and Charlie Gleberman; and Carson, Cameron and Jackson Amiot.
Jim was a member of the First Baptist Church of Orlando, The Biltmore Forest Country Club and the Huguenot Society of South Carolina. He was a former member of the Royal Brigade of Guards of Asheville and the Country Club of Orlando. Additionally he was an avid, excellent golfer his whole adult life.
From Glen Alpine his family moved to Asheville in 1943. While in high school he was a member of the Goldenaires Dance Band, playing the saxophone. During these years he worked at the old Asheville-Hendersonville airport to make money to take flying lessons from Paul McMurray. On his 16th birthday he soloed for the first time and earned a pilot's license upon becoming the legal age at 18. He and two friends were well known as the Burney Mountain Flyers.
Jim graduated from Lee Edwards High School in 1947. He is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism. While at UNC he was a member of the Chi Phi Fraternity and the ROTC. After graduation he joined the Air Force and was a Korean War
In his civilian professional life he was first a partner in the insurance firm of Stickney Willingham in Asheville. He then became a representative of the Charlotte firm Investors Diversified Services. In 1967 he and his family moved from Asheville to Winter Park, Florida to become the Florida manager for Financial Services, Inc. He later served as President of Saxon Oil, the largest independent exploration company in the U.S. at that time. He was also owner and President of Wilco Oil Company. Later in Orlando he founded the financial service companies of Willingham and Associates and Willingham and Finner. He was a Certified Financial Planner, a Registered Investment Advisor and a National Association of Security Dealers broker/dealer.
The family is deeply appreciative of the excellent care and guidance Jim and his family have received from Memory Care. They are also thankful for the wonderfully caring staffs at Arbor Terrace in Asheville, the Brian Center in Weaverville and Four Seasons Hospice.
A memorial service will be held at the Lake Julian location of the Groce Funeral Home on Saturday, January 5 at 2:00 p.m.
In lieu of flowers the family suggests that memorial gifts may be made to the First Baptist Church of Orlando, 3000 S. John Young Parkway, Orlando, FL 32805; or Memory Care, 100 Far Horizons Lane, Asheville, NC 28803; or a